Spirituality is an essential facet of any culture, intentional community or a conscious individual’s life. While there is not a single spiritual path that everyone here at GaiaYoga Gardens shares, there is something at a spiritual level that helps guide us and bonds our community together. In fact, one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in “designing” our culture is manifesting a spiritual “glue.” One that keeps us together, but also supports diversity and change in peoples’ spiritual practice, focus and realization.
The primary filter we are monitoring in regards to spiritual philosophies or practices is whether or not they support a sustainable and holistic lifestyle. In other words, does the spiritual path support wholeness in the individual and does it support their ability to fully incarnate their human “beingness” as a member of a community.
There are many spiritual traditions that subtly or not so subtly discount or invalidate parts of our humanity. Examples of this are the concept of original sin in Christianity or this punishing god found in the Old Testament or the Koran. Many Eastern traditions are interpreted to be saying that the world is simply an illusion or maya and must be transcended. That being incarnated is a fundamental problem or fall from the divine. This often leads to psychic and emotional violence against the body and inner child.
There are traditions that see a schism between (life / manifestation / the feminine / change / form / birth-death) and (God / The Self / emptiness / Consciousness). When people hold this schism and value Consciousness over manifestation this often leads to fragmentation and even self-violence in the practitioner. There is still value in teachings that have this orientation, but we want to be clear about it as a community and see the overall ramifications of these teachings.
We actually have a lot of discrimination at GaiaYoga Gardens around spirituality. And while there are numerous paths we support and trust that they serve the practitioner in coming to greater wholeness and spiritual maturation, we see there are definitely paths that actually lead away from this, despite their “case” to the contrary.
It’s important that we are able to have open, respectful but challenging conversations around spirituality with people who stay here and that people are open to looking at their spiritual approach from a “permaculture perspective.” By this we mean looking at the design and basic structure of the spiritual approach and seeing if it actually works and is actually sustainable over time. Does it actually support the integration of God and Goddess or Consciousness and Love/Energy? Does it support a functional, healthy, aware life?
In simplest terms, we see that there are two primary faces of Spirit. The Divine Masculine – which is the consciousness or emptiness sought through meditation – and The Divine Feminine – which is the energy of birth-life-death often sought through sacred sexuality, art, prayer, dance, music and ritual. We encourage people to engage in a spiritual practice that serves to integrate the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine, that values both, and helps us deepen our realization and manifestation of this union.
Teachings and practices we’ve found to support this kind of spiritual orientation include: Waking Down, Nonviolent Communication, pagan rituals, 12-step recovery, Re-Evaluative Co-Counseling, nature communion, shamanic journeying, plant-spirit-medicine ceremonies, Tantra, The Michael Teaching, guided visualizations, prayer, Qigong, Tai Chi, and various yoga and meditation techniques. There are many others we’re not so familiar but are open to embrace.
While we don’t fully embrace any of the well-established “world religions,” (Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Judiasm, Islam, etc.) we appreciate aspects in all of them. We find spiritual wisdom and support in many of the world religions and also in the more recent teachings of Osho, Adi Da (Da Free John), Ammachi, Saniel Bonder, Rumi, Malidoma and Sobonfu Somé (The Dagara People), native Hawaiian spirituality and many other indigenous spiritual traditions from around the world.
Our dream here at GaiaYoga Gardens is to create a community that integrates Spirit, self, community and Earth in a full and sustainable manner. Obviously, spirituality is an essential part of this. While many communities have spirituality at their core, for us the core is slightly different. Our core is balance itself, wholeness itself, integration itself – the approach we call GaiaYoga. We’ve seen many spiritual communities that are actually out of balance because of an “over focus” on spirituality (and therefore an under focus on other areas of life). This “over focus” is a structural issue that becomes possible when spirituality dominates over balance itself, wholeness itself, integration itself. So, while spirituality is an essential aspect of our life here, it is held in the same esteem as self, community, and Earth.
The greatest gift we offer people here is spaciousness. There’s real space here to fall into yourself, to unwind and have the time and support to explore your spirituality and find what is true for you. If you have any questions about our approach to spirituality at GaiaYoga Gardens please feel free to ask us.
One more thing worth mentioning is that most people have a concept of what a spiritual community looks like. GYG almost certainly will NOT fit that picture. Both Melekai and Ano are not in the active “spiritual” seeker or traditional “spiritual” practice phase of their lives. They are much more karma and bhakti yogis than meditation practitioners, chanters, hatha yogis, etc. Their biggest yoga is “parenting yoga” which is very time consuming. Because most people associate those type of spiritual practices with what a spiritual person should look like, many people are disappointed or confused by what they see here. But it is actually the foundation of spiritual and holistic practice that allows them to do what they are doing here. It’s inherent, not overt.
You can think of it this way: When I was learning to ride a bike I spent hours practicing, falling down, getting up again, riding a bit, falling down, etc. It was a big focus of my life. When I was learning to sing, I took voice lessons, I practiced scales, vowels and pitch, breathing, etc. for hours upon hours. Once I could sing in a way that pleased me I stopped practicing all the time. Eventually I hardly practiced at all, except for warming up before performing or recording. Spiritual practice is no different. Spiritual practice is meant to lead to spiritual realization. Like riding a bike or singing, once you “get” it, it’s yours for the rest of your life. You don’t have to keep practicing. You just live a life integrated with the realization of The Divine. You just ride and sing as you’re inspired. Seen from this light, having a spiritual practice isn’t really a sign that someone is more spiritual, it’s a sign that their connection to Spirit needs support. If the connection to the Divine Masculine, Divine Feminine and our own soul is stable and strong, we can just live a spiritual life. This may or may not look “spiritual” on the outside. But the proof is in the realization of the person and the amount of energy and consciousness they bring to life, not in how much time they spend each day or week doing “spiritual” things.
If you come here, we invite you to look past your ideas of what “spiritual” looks like and acts like. We invite you to realize that there is a very deep and mysterious process alive here that is guided by and rooted in Spirit – but it’s almost certainly not what you think it will look like.